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Exploring Elkhart Parks & Shooting Locations

Exploring Elkhart Parks & Shooting Locations

I set out in my truck on Saturday morning, camera by my side, with the goal of finding suitable indoor or outdoor covered locations in which I could take brides/grooms or wedding parties to shoot photos on wedding days.  On a typical wedding day I like to find a scenic area in which I can photograph the bride and groom as they see each other for the first time during the "first look" event.  As anyone in Indiana knows, the weather can be quite unpredictable in the spring, so an indoor or covered location is good to have as a backup "plan B" to fall back on, just in case!

As I made my way from Jimtown towards downtown Elkhart, I remembered a cool little park - Cobus Creek - that's set off the beaten path a bit, so I stopped for a quick look.  I had forgot just how beautiful the flowers and plantings are.  Pathways lead back through really interesting gardens.  The covered shelter has a gorgeous stone fireplace at one end and is perfect for group photos.  I'd encourage anyone around the area to take a visit for a picnic to this park, you won't be dissappointed!

Cobus Creek Park
Cobus Creek Park
Cobus Creek Park

I left Cobus Creek and ventured towards downtown Elkhart, next stop was High Dive Park near downtown.  As I parked I noticed a large group of folks pulling into the park's tennis courts - amateur tennis league on Saturday morning - what a great use of our local recreational facilities!

The park is full of photo opportunities, including this beautiful shaded lake that makes a great backdrop for bridal portraits.  The dark green foliage provides the perfect contrast to a bridal gown and wedding vale.  

The covered pagoda was really neat, although not the ideal rain location for wedding photos in bad weather, as it's quite a long walk to get to it.

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Next on my list was Island Park, situated not very far from High Dive Park and actually connected to it by a foot bridge!  The park is, as it's name implies, situated on a small island in the middle of the St. Joseph River near downtown Elkhart.  The park was very spread out with plenty of room to throw a Frisbee, take photos, stroll along the river or eat a picnic lunch.

There were plenty of friendly folks to talk to....

This little guy found a patch of sun to take lay down for a rest!

This little guy found a patch of sun to take lay down for a rest!

This dog was having a blast running around Island Park!  So many sticks to fetch...such little time!

This dog was having a blast running around Island Park!  So many sticks to fetch...such little time!

This little girl was really having fun drinking and playing in the water fountain!

This little girl was really having fun drinking and playing in the water fountain!

Grandpa and grandson were heading to their favorite fishing spot

Grandpa and grandson were heading to their favorite fishing spot

This shelter was just what I was looking for!  Not too far of a walk from the parking lot and plenty of room to take photos for an entire wedding party, parents and family photos or just the soon to be married couple by themselves!  The archways and red & tan paint colors were awesome and the stone bench seating would make a perfect location for an engagement photo session as well!

Another find within High Dive Park was this wooden stage.  This would make a great spot for couples photography indeed!

Another find within High Dive Park was this wooden stage.  This would make a great spot for couples photography indeed!

As I strolled through the park, it was clear that spring was here and the wildlife were enjoying the park just as much as the people!

As I strolled through the park, it was clear that spring was here and the wildlife were enjoying the park just as much as the people!

Next on the list was the renovated Lerner Theater directly downtown Elkhart.  The main sign out front is a definite photo opportunity as well as the gorgeous stone facade and architecture, pillars, sconces and dark walkway.  The long, narrow walkways around the building all offer great lighting and visual interest for photographing a wedding!  The inside of the Lerner is magically ornate as well, however it's a little difficult and expensive to gain permission to bring a wedding party inside for shooting.  This is definitely top of the list for downtown Elkhart wedding photography attractions!

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There are really interesting and amazingly real statues located throughout the downtown Elkhart area.  More than once, while walking around, I was taken off guard by these "folks" as they looked eerily real!  The violinist just outside the Lerner was my favorite, so I had to spend a little while photographing him!

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The straight lines and contrasting colors of this archictecture in downtown Elkhart caught my eye!  The bright blue sky behind made a great background.  There's room under this awning for couples photography for sure!

The straight lines and contrasting colors of this archictecture in downtown Elkhart caught my eye!  The bright blue sky behind made a great background.  There's room under this awning for couples photography for sure!

By the end of my 2 hours roaming around, I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of photo opportunities that I found, all within a 1 mile radius!  I'd highly encourage anyone in the Mishawaka, South Bend, Elkhart and surrounding Michiana area to explore what is offered and take advantage of it for family photos, picnics, fishing or just plain hanging out!

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Tips for Choosing a Wedding Photographer

If you are planning a wedding then you've probably been researching the many different websites and information available on the web related wedding vendors. You've probably also felt a bit overwhelmed at times with all the information, blogs, guides, tips, forums, etc...  Just running a quick query of wedding photographers in my neck of the woods (South Bend, Indiana), I turned up no less than 47 self proclaimed wedding photographers.  In this day and age of always available cameras, more and more folks are slapping up a website and advertising themselves as available to shoot your wedding, but if you're not careful, you run the risk of jeopardizing one of the biggest days of your lives.

I thought I'd put together a "must know" list of items that you should be covering with your potential photographer before you sign on the dotted line.  This is by no means all the questions you should be asking, but is meant to cover the main items.

Does the photographer's "style" work for you?

Most photographers have a certain style or look to their work.  Some may shoot very formal, posed photos where the majority of the shots are staged and the style is traditional.  Others shoot primarily journalistic or candid, whereby they are capturing moments as they happen and don't intervene or stage anything.  Some photographers process their images to look vintage or film like, while others offer bold, vibrant colors.  Be careful about trendy looks, they may look good today, but in 10 years they may look out of date.  Look for a good mix of formal and journalistic photography without over the top processing, so that you have a classic set of pictures to last many generations.

How will the final photos be delivered?

Many photographers (including myself) deliver the final photos as electronic files (JPG pictures).  This is a convenient and modern way to archive your photos, however it truly is just that, an archive.  It is not the best way to showcase or view your files.  You absolutely want to make sure your photographer offers printed and framed pictures as well as albums.  Digital files are cumbersome to sort through, getting to your favorites is time consuming, many folks of older generations have no idea how to view them, the files types of today may be obsolete in 5 years and the list goes on and on.  None of these concerns apply to an album or framed picture.  Make sure your photographer offers these options, you'll never regret it.

Make sure you know the details...

Wedding photography comes in all different sizes and flavors.  Make sure you completely understand what is included in what you're paying for.  Some of the key items to understand:

  • Total hours of coverage should be spelled out so there's no misunderstanding.
  • If you have a large wedding with multiple getting ready spots, limo rides around town and a large reception, you may want two or possibly three photographers.
  • What is the guaranteed time frame for receiving your photos and/or albums.
  • Do you have full print and sharing rights to the images?  Most times the default answer is no, unless your package includes this specifically.  The photographer owns all of the images and you must have permission, in writing, to print, share or make albums with them.
  • What happens if the photographer has an unexpected event and can't make it to the wedding.  Make sure there's a guarantee that he/she will send a backup photographer.

Does he/she use a contract?

This is probably the most important point.  There are too many fly-by-night photographers out there and a contract is the absolute best way to protect yourself.  Make sure this is signed before dishing out any money.  Make sure all of the points listed in the details section above are ALL included in this contract.  If the photographer has ANY reservations about using a contract, walk away and don't look back, they are not someone you want to do business with!  Here is an example contract if you're interested in what to look for.

Don't just communicate via email...

It's absolutely best to try and meet with your potential photographer in person, not just via email.  If you absolutely can't meet face to face, at least spend 20-30 minutes on Facetime or Skype with them.  You will end up spending a fair amount of time with this person, between engagement photos, the rehearsal, getting ready pics, the ceremony, etc...  You want to know if you click with this person and if they have a attractive personality, this is difficult to gauge via email or text only.

Hopefully this list gives you some pointers along our journey to wedding nirvana.  I am always available to chat about this subject anytime you have questions.  Shoot me an email or call me and let's chat!!

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